7 must-hear mixes from January 2018: Timeless techno and razor-sharp footwork
It’s almost impossible to keep on top of everything that SoundCloud, Mixcloud and online radio has to offer. In our monthly column, FACT guides you through the must-hear mixes of the last 30 days, whether you want a club session to warm you up for the weekend, ambient soothers or a set of vinyl-only obscurities.
As every die-hard knows, January is an excellent month for clubs – the dancefloors are that bit emptier, the tickets are cheaper and the fair-weather ravers are all doing #DryJan anyway. Perfect conditions.
The long, dark nights also seem to have shaped this month’s mix selections. We’re heading into the gloomy caves of Berghain with techno veteran Fiedel and the saddest corners of SoundCloud with sad rap fan Kaio; Daniel O’Sullivan combs his collection for some incredible, introspective moods, and Midland takes us on an ambient stroll through the sleeping city. For balance, we also channel the fire and fury of the battle dance with mixes from Chicago footworker Jana Rush and Brooklyn FDM king Epic B, while Parisian DJ Sunareht provides a blast of sunbed-strength UV energy with a filter-heavy mix to see you through to summer.
Fans of frothy disco and tropical house will be struggling this month, but for a minuscule hint of the Caribbean, don’t miss dembow historian Wayne Marshall’s madcap new mix, which “amplifies the resonances between 19th century composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk and the bedrock rhythm of reggaeton.” Two more recommended runners-up come from Editions Mego boss and avant-electronics ledge Peter Rehberg, who delivers a personal mixtape for The Wire, and Auckland producer k2k, who drops an hour of luminous deep house for RBMA’s alumni slot.
Sunareht – Chute Libre Indoor Mix
Freshly filtered delirium from Paris’ next generation
Parisian producer Sunareht is one quarter of Paradoxe Club, a label and clubnight nurturing a hybrid club aesthetic that ties the city’s venerable dance legacy to contemporary movements from the UK, the US and Francophone Africa. The style has so far been captured best by DJ figurehead Teki Latex, who also gave it the name Bérite Club, but his Paradoxe Club mentees now seem poised to shake off their apprentice robes and step into the spotlight.
Before next month’s synapse-frying EP from Le Dom, crew member Sunareht – representing the nerdier, Aphexier wing of the label – drops this loopy beauty of a mix, combining his own edits of classics by Thomas Bangalter and (BLOG HOUSE KLAXON!) Alan Braxe & Fred Falke with newer material of the sliced-and-stuttering variety. The result is an hour of heart-swelling delirium to make you dance hard and cry even harder.
Fiedel – Berghain 08
Timeless techno live from the ultimate rave cave
Three years can feel like a long time on the dancefloor. Ostgun Ton’s last Berghain mix appeared at the height of mainstream media mania around the club (well, around its inscrutable entrance requirements, at least), but now that the undercover reporters have given up trying to pass their “normie” off as “normcore”, it’s a good moment for the iconic Berlin club to reassert itself as the global capital of techno.
Fiedel (one half of veteran duo MMM with Errorsmith) is a long-standing resident of the Berghain caverns, and it’s that familiarity with the building’s very girders, floors and walls that makes this 140-minute mix the absolute real deal – plus the fact that it’s actually a recording of a set he played there in November 2017, with a separate microphone capturing occasional ecstatic whoops from ravers losing their shit on their dancefloor.
Anyone who’s experienced Berghain for themselves will know that tunes just sound different in there; the heaviest, hardest techno feels full of space, texture and movement, and you can sense how Fiedel’s selections from Dopplereffekt, Errorsmith and Hodge balloon to gargantuan proportions in that hallowed space. Bludgeoning and bloody good.
Midland – As The City Sleeps mixtape
Whisper-soft late-night ambience by a disco don
If you know Midland, you know that he’s pretty nifty at this whole “carefully crafted mix” business. His Fabric submission last year was one of the best recent instalments in the long-running series, and the nicest man in disco continues his hot streak with this freebie for the long, cold winter nights.
‘As the city sleeps’ is the soundtrack to “one of my favourite times of day,” he explains, “between 4-5am, the witching hour, when you fall in love, spend time getting to know the things about your friends you never knew and when towns and cities feel like your own.”
The mix was initially created for an immersive light installation at Bristol venue Motion, which gives you a sense of the twinkly, glowing aura he’s going for here, combining sampled speech and sparse arrangements by Steve Reich, Demdike Stare, Mark Pritchard, Carla Del Forno and more. Get this on your phone for the solo journey home.
Epic B for The Astral Plane
Irresistible dancefloor commandments according to the king of Brooklyn’s FDM scene
The Brooklyn dance style known as FDM has been having a bit of a moment in the last year or so, evolving from a localised battle dance scene into a polished, producer-led sound, as showcased by rising talents like Unanimise and Epic B, who popped up on Manchester’s mighty Swing Ting label last year.
On his mix for The Astral Plane, Epic B brings together a stack of irresistibly danceable material – mostly recent and mostly his own – and shows us why FDM is ripe for wider success out right now, carving a rhythmic furrow between ragga, reggaeton and rap in a sound that feels very Brooklyn and very now. The ‘Liberian Girl’ riddim is especially sick – jury’s out on the Spice Girls segment though.
Jana Rush – Press Play 010
Razor-sharp footwork by a reborn artist
The reemergence of Jana Rush last year was a righting of wrongs; the Chicago producer had been off the radar for years after initially finding local fame as a teen sensation with a record on Dance Mania. But with the release of her album Pariah last year, she ended a 10-year hiatus with one of the most original footwork records since Jlin’s Dark Energy.
This mix for Never Normal Records is one of a bunch she’s dropped over the past 12 months, but it’s fair to say Jana is making up for lost time – her hard-edged footwork style, usually favouring jagged, endlessly tessellating rhythms over soulful samples, is as clinically efficient as you’d expect from a DJ who moonlights as a CAT scan technologist. Her “beats and basslines” mix is impatient and ferocious, blending the classic footwork sound of artists like Traxman with oddball sample cut-ups and unexpected slow-mo R&B.
Kaio for Tobago Tracks
Sadboi heartbreak for the SoundCloud generation
Coming of age at this knife-edge moment in human history, with nuclear standoffs, black market genetics and climate catastrophe all vying to be the sci-fi scenario that wipes us out for good, it’s no wonder the kids aren’t alright, actually. The “all my friends are dead” generation of SoundCloud rap fans are the true goths of the 21st century, and with the sudden death of emo-rap figurehead Lil Peep last November, they even got their Cobain-esque martyr.
But whatever you make of the publicity-friendly aesthetic, the gothic potential of 808s and sludgy synths has been known since the days of Three 6 Mafia, and on this mix for UK label Tobago Tracks, London producer and singer Kaio captures the tragic soul of a subculture, blending tracks from DJ Smokey, Lil Skill, and GothBoiClique artists like DØVES and Wicca Phase. Hearing a chopped and screwed voice asking you to “lick my nuts” over sombre saxophone and piano is an experience everyone should share.
Daniel O’Sullivan – Secret Thirteen Mix 244
Globe-trotting visions from an avant-garde pathfinder
Daniel O’Sullivan has a dizzying roll call of collaborations to his name, from his trippy folk outfit Grumbling Fur to Nordic avant-metal collective Ulver to synth-pop duo Miracle, to name just a few. As such, he’s exposed himself to an enormous variety of musics from across time and space over the years, and this introspective, collage-like mixtape for Secret Thirteen is a wandering tour through his collection.
From the modern spiritualism of Sir John Tavener to Tuvan throat singer Kaigal-Ool Khovaly, from dub master Augustus Pablo to French pop visionary Jean-Claude Vannier, it’s mix that contains multitudes over its 45 tracks, and will send you down a few YouTube rabbit holes on your way.
Chal Ravens is a freelance journalist. Find her on Twitter.
Read next: The 10 best mixes of 2017